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Sunsetting Arbeau

Sunsetting Arbeau

October 9th, 2023 | 12:00 pm ET

We say farewell to our first game — for now.

With the announcement of Project Lexa out in the world, I wanted to briefly turn my attention to our first and only released game, Arbeau.

Arbeau was always first and foremost a game jam game — an ambitious jam game at that — where we were trying to tackle some big ideas in a small amount of time.

Made for Ludum Dare 33’s theme of “You Are the Monster,” Arbeau was the result of Mason, Sean, Kirby, and myself trying to approach that theme in a unique way. Skipping past werewolves, vampires, or other monstrous pastiches that easily pop into your head, we wanted to go deeper. We thought about metaphorical monsters — people who are cruel, maybe even reluctantly so — and we eventually decided on an office worker in a future dystopia who was tasked with routing needed resources like electricity to various districts of this future society as determined by their corporate overlords.

All of this was encased in the trappings of a retro computer desktop, where doing these actions that changed the lives of the game’s citizens was no more difficult than opening a folder on your PC. The tasks of how much resource to assign to which district were assigned to you by the computer system’s AI — the titular Arbeau. Arbeau would also inform you at the end of the in-game rounds the results of your actions, depending on if they succeeded or failed, usually with a smattering of dark humor.

Like I said: ambitious!

An example of Arbeua's prompt and result dialog. On the left is Arbeau prompting a player for a task, and on the right is the resulting dialog when they fail that task. Kirby did an amazing job creating a very recognizable voice for Arbeau.

An example of Arbeua's prompt and result dialog. The top image is Arbeau prompting a player for a task, and on the bottom image is the resulting dialog when they fail that task. Kirby did an amazing job creating a very recognizable voice for Arbeau.

Due to the scope, the version completed at the end of Ludum Dare 33 didn’t even have enough content in it to be playable. I remember spending a decent amount of time that weekend just trying to properly wrap my head around Unity’s UI system.

It would be another year — once I graduated college — before I had enough time to hammer out a full gameplay loop for the game and release it.

But I don’t think Arbeau, in its current form, is the best representation of Ward Games. It’s fairly light on content and gameplay, and the idea of the semi-annoying AI that constantly interrupts you in a game where time is of the essence doesn’t come together particularly well. I am proud of what we did with that game, though: I learned a lot about game programming and Unity’s UI system — Arbeau is almost 100% Unity UI-based! — and trying to just finish a game and put it out was ultimately the goal.

But now, with the wisdom of hindsight and eight more years of game dev experience, I think it’s time to move on to greener pastures and set Ward Games up to have Project Lexa be the showcase of what we’re capable of, so, starting today, we’ll be delisting Arbeau from the Ward Games site and itch.io page. But if you’re still interested in checking out this version of Arbeau, don’t worry, I have migrated it over to my personal itch.io page.

I would like to return to Arbeau at some point in the future. I still think the core idea has potential — it just needs more time to develop its ideas. But with Lexa development in full swing, that’s more time than I can dedicate to it right now.

Perhaps one day.  

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